While attending a lecture at my University with presiding speaker Paul Hartnett (who basically entertained and shocked us) I pondered over his 'icy' statement about branding. 'Branding is vulgar.' According to him no amounts of branding can help push or create a name for anyone in the fashion industry. Which makes me wonder whether anyone could really survive without branding.
In my opinion, everyone is a brand strategist today. A designer/ brand manufactures garments, holds fashion shows and produces ad campaigns. If you don't call that branding, than what is it? No offense to Paul, he might think the industry doesn't need branding but they definitely do. Without a brand strategy, the brand can lose its presence in the market before it even has the chance to say hello to the wardrobe in a consumer's house.
Why do big brands have to keep revamping and reinventing their brand's image, cause today there are so many options available in the market and loyalty is fading. Consumers can bounce from one alternative to another because there are so many available. In that case, branding is what can keep the product in the consumer's eyes. Then it is up to the product and its manufacturer to deliver quality. I don't believe that solely on branding can make a product sell, as there are a lot of other factors affecting the process. But once the product is ready, branding is a way into the market and into the minds of the consumers. Therefore whichever strategy you pick has to be right on target. The way to a man's heart might be through his stomach, but the way to a shopper's money is through his brain. Branding creates an image in the mind of the consumer to help him/her decide what to choose.
The fashion industry operates on different models to present itself. Luxury brands have different strategies as opposed to more commercial/easily affordable brands. Daniel Chu, Executive Creative Director of marketing agency Momentum quotes in an article by Gill Linton on, (http://www.psfk.com/2009/09/does-the-fashion-industry-know-what-a-brand-strategy-is.html)
“In fashion, we create mystique, and that’s the strategy. The mystique of creative collaborations, the mystique of pop-up shops, the mystique of photography – these are the tools to reframe the context of a fashion brand within culture. To make it more complex, fashion is a culture that thrives on itself, at its root, fashion is and always will be about itself. It creates to impress itself. In other product categories, strategy avoids mystique and relies on clarity. Strategy provides a clear consumer message, or emotional benefit, to products and categories which have no emotional or generational resonance.”
Daniel Chu brings forward a very valid argument, but then I wonder till what extent to brands go to make themselves visible in the eyes of a consumer. Some can get extremely controversial as well. Branding is good, but some branding might be scandalous.
How many people including Paul Hartnett believe that it is vulgar and unnecessary? But the point to bring about here is what did he really mean by vulgar branding.
Here are some of the most controversial advertisements that have stirred strong public reactions.
Sisley has delivered consistently provocative ads for the better part of a decade. Whether it’s white residue in their model’s nose or mouth (see above), you can count on this Benetton Group company to push the envelope.
Created immense controversy as a photograph gone awry and tried to imply another meaning
Dolce & Gabbana – January 2007
Banned in Italy, this Dolce & Gabbana advertisement has been criticized as a glorification of gang-rape. While one can never be sure of D&G’s true intent, the company’s penchant is for controversy.
While the industry needs branding, we wonder whether there is at times too much of something. Sex has always sold and will always sell. But sometimes do the techniques cause more of a disaster than a success formula. In that case is Paul right? How much is too much? What are your opinions on that?
(Images courtesy: Google)